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Chinese police ordered to stop interfering with reporters

August 8, 2008

The rules were introduced after an outcry in the Hong Kong media over
police shoving reporters covering the chaotic last-minute sale of
Olympic tickets late last month.
IETB - Basque News and Information Channel (Spain)
August 5, 2008

Beijing's security-obsessed police have been told not to interfere in
foreign journalists' news coverage, part of efforts to show openness
while avoiding embarrassment at the Olympics.

The Aug 8-24 Games have galvanised global critics of China on an
array of issues, including journalists' freedom to report, media
access to the Internet and the treatment of dissidents, petitioners
and Tibetans.

According to an internal document seen by Reuters, new rules issued
last week instruct Beijing police not to interfere with
anti-government public speeches concerning the banned spiritual
movement Falun Gong, Xinjiang, Tibet or Taiwan independence.

They can only intervene if there is "drastic action that attracts a
crowd or affects public order" on the capital's Tiananmen Square or
other politically sensitive sites.

The rules were introduced after an outcry in the Hong Kong media over
police shoving reporters covering the chaotic last-minute sale of
Olympic tickets late last month. An officer was kicked in the groin
and taken to hospital.

The rules also bar police from blocking camera lenses of
photographers and television cameramen covering news or damaging
their equipment.

Law enforcement authorities are not allowed to seize camera memory
cards, the document said, adding that reporters cannot be taken to
police stations for questioning in "ordinary cases".

Police were also told not to interfere in foreign journalists'
interviews with evicted residents, farmers deprived of land, laid-off
workers, discharged servicemen, anti-Japanese, anti-French and human
rights activists, the document said.

"Foreign reporters will no longer be prohibited from filming on
Tiananmen Square," a law enforcement official told Reuters,
requesting anonymity to avoid repercussions for speaking to a foreign reporter.

China's state news agency Xinhua said journalists need to apply 24
hours beforehand to take pictures on the square -- the centre of
student-led demonstrations for democracy crushed by troops in 1989.

"This kind of thing is good news if it is enforced," said Bob Dietz
of the Committee to Protect Journalists. "What we've seen in the past
is that the central government has instituted rule changes and then
when it comes for them to be implemented on the ground local
authorities don't follow through."

In Kashgar, where a bomb attack killed 16 policemen on Monday,
baton-waving security forces chased two Reuters reporters down the street.

Japan's Kyodo news agency said paramilitary police detained and beat
up two Japanese journalists in the restive northwestern city, some
3,000 miles (5,000 km) west of Beijing.

A source with ties to the leadership said China in a policy change
will no longer insist on a "peaceful" Olympics with no untoward
incidents. "Instead of preventing things from going wrong, the focus
will now be on how to deal with things when they go wrong," the
source told Reuters, requesting anonymity.
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